Sept. 2, 2009: Need a better way to kill the weeds

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To The Editor:
The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development would like to commend the Catskill Mountain News and Brian Sweeney for the excellent piece of investigative journalism that appeared in last week’s edition on the application of herbicides in and around the Town of Middletown. This is an issue that The Catskill Center has been concerned about not only within the confines of the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve and the NYC Watershed, but throughout the more than 6,000 square-mile Catskill Mountain Region.
The Catskill Center would like to think that the State of New York, (as the primary stewards of the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve), and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, (as the primary stewards of the West-Of-Hudson NYC Watershed), set good examples of what it means to reside, work, and visit these areas warranting enhanced environmental protection.
The continued application of herbicides may not only jeopardize the drinking water supply for nine million New Yorkers, but it can have adverse impacts on our drinking water supply, among others. Surely there are other issues as well; many linked to the tourist dollar, like the potential impacts on the aquatic life in our streams, or the brown, dead appearance of the roadsides – those important arteries that crisscross our mountains, bringing visitors from far and near to what they view as a “pristine” place.
It seems like there has to be a better way. A better way to control roadside vegetation both native and foreign, that keeps sight distances clear, ensures that storm water can properly exit the road, and that signage can be seen at safe distances. All of this should be accomplished in a way that limits impact to the natural environment. A better alternative could include mowing and trimming, but then there is gasoline emissions and noise to consider.
Maybe there are other options that warrant further investigation. We all need to begin thinking outside the box to further explore this passionate issue. I think what we’ll discover is that it’s not an issue we need to tackle from the perspective of preserving “America’s first wilderness,” nor for maintaining the integrity of the unfiltered water supply for half of the state’s population, or even to appease the senses of our downstate visitors. I believe it all boils down to a “quality of life” and public health issue for each one of us. And in reality, it’s a quality of life decision we need to make now on behalf of our children and future generations.
I came across a manual funded by the Michigan State Energy Office that instructs homeowners on how to use solar power to charge these much quieter, battery-powered, and of course eco-friendly lawn mowers and trimmers. Several local New York State and New York City offices have been using hybrid cars for years now, so it seems like the technology (and the interest) is out there. Let’s at least explore the possibility of using it.

Aaron Bennett
Director of Programming,
The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development
Arkville